This is a guest post by Harrison Morgan, a senior communications major at Boston University who specializes in fashion PR.
Within the fashion industry, press coverage is absolutely crucial for cultivating brand awareness. The pitching process that leads to such coverage may seem like an abstract concept, but at its core it means following a fundamental step-by-step outline.
Here are some tips on how to gain more traction for your fashion organization’s media efforts with some simple, actionable steps:
1) Define your message
Put yourself in the position of a fashion-obsessed reader and try to imagine every conceivable thought that may pop into their heads when reading your article: What is this? Why should I care? How is this different?
Keeping it as simple as possible will allow you to focus on a single mission without getting distracted by other goals. You’ve reached the core of your idea not when you’ve got nothing more to add AND nothing to remove.
2) Do your research
Take some time to investigate several different fashion-focused outlets to determine where your organization’s message will fit best and list them on an Excel sheet.
20 publications is generally a good starting point for most campaigns, but if you’re looking to add more, you can simply create new “verticals.”.
To put this into context, I’ll use the example of a shoe-enthusiast named Sally. Let’s say Sally has her very own shoe brand called Sally’s Shoes (go figure), and she is now seeking media coverage for a new line of heels. Her explicit topics are a) fashion and b) women’s interests, so targeted publications will be centered around those subjects.
However, if Sally is also donating 10% of of proceeds to PETA and is a full-time chef on the side, those topics open doors into two very distinct verticals for leveraged storytelling. You can now pitch Sally’s company to food blogs, pet blogs, charity blogs, and many, many more.
3) Build a media list
Your media list is essentially a personal collection of journalists’ profiles to which you can add contact information and other pertinent details. Though it may seem time-consuming, building this list will save you a lot of hassle when you begin pitching (sites such as Rolodek offer fairly comprehensive lists of fashion media contacts that will serve as a good starting point for your database).
Exhibit a bit of common sense to make sure you reach out to the right person in the right department: for example, the food editor from The New York Times probably doesn’t want to hear about Sally’s new footwear venture unless she’s already a famous chef.
4) Prepare a press kit
If you can make a reporter’s life easier in any way possible, do it. Fashion publications thrive on running vivid images with their articles, and press packs allow you to put those images with other media elements to make sure all the details are in place.
When a journalist expresses interest in your story, he/she will inevitably ask for more information. This is when you hand off the press pack. The three baseline components: press shots, relevant links, and a short press release if possible.
Most journalists do not like to be inundated with information in that initial pitch, so you should “nudge” them with a great hook and wait for them to bite before sending the whole package.
5) Craft your pitch
Of course, no campaign will work without an effective pitch. Here are the three steps I usually follow:
a) Be personal!
No one likes generic email blasts that obviously went out to every member of your company’s press list. Refer back to articles a given journalist has written to show that you know who they are and what they cover and that you’ve actually READ their work. Try to reference articles related to your pitch.
b) Keep it short
Journalists are busy enough as is, so keep your pitch short and to the point to avoid losing interest. If the readers has to scroll down even a bit, then the pitch probably too long.
c) Give newsworthy material
Determining whether a pitch is newsworthy can be complicated. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Is it timely? How recent or “fresh” is the news?
- Will the news have a legitimate impact on the reader?
- What about prominence? Are there any celebrities or notable figures associated with your story?
d) Understand who you’re pitching
Be sure that your pitch will appeal to the specific audience of the outlet and the individual journalist you’re pitching (to continue with the New York Times example, Vanessa Friedman and Guy Trebay will appeal to different readers).
On the topical front, I like to use Buzzsumo’s web search tool to brainstorm ideal headlines (pic below):
Running a search on your target sites will give you a clearer picture of what kinds of articles perform well with their readers.
The most important aspect of dealing with fashion media (beyond having great clients) may well be maintaining a genuine personality in your interactions with contacts.
The more you practice, the more you will pick up on what does and doesn’t work with certain individuals. Media relationships take time to develop — especially in the fashion industry — so be extremely patient and good things will come.